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The first segment tells the story of the troubled birth of the world's first democracy, ancient Athens, through the life of an Athenian nobleman, Cleisthenes.
During the reign of Amenhotep III, Egypt was the center for culture and learning in the ancient world. Egypt had reached dizzying heights, but it stood on the brink of a devastating fall.
Egypt was occupied by foreigners except for a narrow strip of land around a town called Thebes. The capital and its royal family had fallen on hard times. But one local family was determined to revive it--the king of Thebes and his two young sons Ahmose and Kamose, who became freedom fighters, liberators of Egypt.
By 1690, Japan is a nation completely isolated from the outside world, except for a small community of Dutch traders. Among them is German Doctor Englebert Kaempfer, whose writings provide valuable insights on daily life in Japan. Culture and commerce flourish. But ruling daimyo warlords and their samurai armies continue to grow restless. The Shogun Tsunayoshi is a product of both classes. Under his rule, art and education excel, and "Laws of Compassion" are introduced. Samurai, geisha, courtesans, merchants, writers and actors are attracted to Edo, and the classes begin to mix. Japanese interest in Western science increases, making the policy of isolation more difficult. In 1853, Mathew C. Perry sails American ships into Edo Bay, and demands a formal opening of the nation. Realizing that resistance is futile, the Japanese negotiate treaties with the U.S. and other nations in the West. Ten years later, the samurai class is disbanded and the Tokugawa Shogunate ends. After 265 years of isolation, the modern era of Japan has begun.